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Material World

Kimberly Gadette

Gadette suggests New York City extend its desire for self-beautification, and artistic sophistication, in an environmentally- and people-friendly manner.

To: Christo Vladimirov Javacheff and Jeanne-Claude de Guillebon, CVJ Corporation

Re: Follow-Up Winter Proposal to "The Gates", New York City, 2005

Note: 26 years in the planning and creation, the art project called "The Gates", created by Christo and his wife/partner Jeanne-Claude, was installed throughout the walkways on Central Park in New York City on February 12, 2005. It consisted of 7,503 "gates" all blooming with fabric, saffron-colored panels suspended from the horizontal top part of the matching-hued vinyl poles. At the end of 16 days, the gates were removed and the materials industrially recycled.

Dear Christo and Jeanne-Claude:

Forgive the familiarity, but I understand the two of you prefer first names only. In that spirit, may I introduce myself as "Burt", ex-internet tech and software guy, one more victim of downsizing, pinkslipping, outsourcing, and many other words jammed together that sound fancier than they are. I'd give you an address but the shelters in Manhattan are pretty strict about accepting personal mail.

Me and my pals were hoping that since you both claim to be such lovers of the environment and recycling, that you would have "recycled" all those saffron-but-it-sure-looks-like-orange-to-me flags by handing them over to us homeless. We could have been wrapped up snug as a bedbug in a rug in all those neon tangerine blankies of yours. Winter could have been so bright! Even better, when we drank too much and passed out cold on Fifth Avenue, motorists would have seen the color and, thinking it was a construction zone, might have braked. You could have been credited with saving lives. Talk about great publicity! (And after all the negative uproar over wasting $26 million dollars, a nice word couldn't have hurt.)

But no need to cry over spilt silk.

Some of my disenfranchised buds from Arthur Andersen and I were jawing, well, more like gumming at the soup kitchen just the other day, and we came up with an idea that you might want to run up the vinyl orange flagpole.

Next time you decide to wrap something transient and unusual: Wrap us.

According to the NYC Department of Homeless Services, the current census on the population taking refuge in the shelters this month is 35,000. (For a minute, let's not think about all the folks who sleep under bridges and overpasses, and would therefore dramatically increase these homeless numbers.)

You make statements about how you love your art as your children, how you desire to share it with the people. Why not share it with the people by actually giving them something they can use? To quote Jeanne-Claude, "We believe that money is the same as manure. It is good only if you spread it around." So how about flinging some of that green guano in our direction?

Speaking of color, let's consider a fabric of deep, rich burgundy. Imagine burgundy individually wrapped around 35,000 homeless men, women and children as they wend their way against a snowy backdrop next winter. Gorgeous. (I was going to say 'breathtaking,' but since there's so much loss of human life in winter, someone might think I was being cruel.) Even the grotesque gray slush of old ice mixed with car leavings and gutter gunge would look great in contrast. A practical hue, burgundy would hide wine stains, blood stains, bruising, scars and all manner of skin disease and ensuing discoloration. Just imagine: Turning the ragged masses into sumptuously-draped kings, queens, and regal progeny of the avenues. Silent, beautiful ghosts, weaving a virtual lattice throughout the City, muffled in luxury, warmer in winter than they've ever been before.

Since there's no possibility you could get the fabric returned to you after 16 days without lots of nasty scuffles, you wouldn't have to pay the price of recycling at all. And since we would act as human hangers, there would be no need to spring for 60 miles of orange vinyl poles.

The Gates took 26 years to accomplish and at $26 million, cost you personally (or so you claim), $1 million per annum. My Arthur Andersen pals, experts at pushing pencils, highly recommend this new project. It'll take less than a year, cost you pennies per person and for once, no one will complain. Well, maybe Sadie down in the Bowery, but she's always been a confirmed nudist, rain or shine. At her age, there's no talking her into clothes. It's a blight on our fair city, but life's tough. Tough as Sadie's skin.

As for the material, it's for the two of you to decide: Utilitarian corduroy, or plush velvet? Lined or unlined? S-M-L-X and child sizes, or One Size Fits Most? Scotchguarding, of course, and you might want to consider spraying it with some sort of Vermin-Off! product.

Maybe you think since I'm not an artist, I have no business writing to you. Maybe you're right. After all, I'm a software expert, not a "soft wear" expert. But I know what I like.

If you care about improving the environment, then look no further than the city you've claimed as your permanent residence since 1964. Wait a minute, I think there might be some flesh-and-blood 'environment' picking through the garbage in your back alley right now. Screw the Reichstag. And the Pont Neuf. Clothe the poor.

Regards from a well-wisher who's anything but a material guy,


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